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The memoirs of Cissie Ewen


War years

John enlists

When war broke out John knew he’d be called up sooner or later, and decided if he volunteered and said his occupation was a baker, he’d perhaps be lucky enough to go into the army as a cook, which he did. It meant we had to move out to let another couple look after the flats. John suggested I go back near Louisa again, for as it happened there was an upstairs flat vacant in Rosehill Road. Our Jimmy’s daughter, Betty Cave, had been with us a little while in Henshelwood, and I can remember only her and me and Jack the day we shifted, but John must have still been home or maybe there was someone else helping us with the furniture.

While at ‘Henshelwood’ (the flats), we had got very friendly with one of the tenants, a Miss Robertson who was middle-aged and worked in the Ministry of Labour. She asked me, if she was able to rent a house in Jesmond, whether Jack and I would go and stay with her and look after her and the house. She worked at Gateshead, on the other side of the Tyne River, so was away all day and didn’t get home until late, sometimes 10pm. We lived only a few months in Rosehill Road before moving back to Jesmond, which was just as well because we didn’t like the place, and it was very near the gasworks. I remember in the short time we lived there, which was the beginning of 1940, the kids around pinched all the toys Jack had. He had lots of lovely gifts given to him by the tenants in the flats, as well as the relatives. He took the whole carton down in the passage to play with the kids around the doors, and they pinched the lot. All he was left with was an empty carton; we never did find out where they’d gone. The man in the flat below was on night shift and had to sleep during the day, and was always knocking up for the least noise, reckoning we were making too much noise and stopping him from getting his sleep. They were Irish. I got to know Mrs Docherty in the short while I was there, and she was very nice and always apologising for her husband’s bad temper. We were there about three months when Miss Robertson got a house; 55 Grosvenor Road, West Jesmond, so we moved in and stopped there until 1947.

Just before I moved from Rosehill Road, the battle of Dunkirk had taken place and Churchill spoke over the radio and said all the troops had now been evacuated and were back in England. I had not had any word from John for some time, so it was a big worry for me wondering what had happened to him. It was ten days later that I received a card from John telling me he was in a transit camp in the south of England. They’d all been given a card to write to their relatives to let them know, and he’d let me know when they were settled in a place where I’d be able to send letters. He wrote later from Blackpool, where the Army had taken over some of the big houses and hotels.

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